Texas Rising June 2008

Bright Lights, Big Dreams

Minor-league ball is a major league hit for Texas tourism.

by Clint Shields

Freshly cut grass. Insects darting among banks of incandescent lights. The shouts of food and drink vendors. The crack of wood on leather. These are the sights, smells and sounds of minor-league baseball.

Local Government
Tools that Made
the Difference

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi voters approved the construction of Whataburger Field, home of the Corpus Christi Hooks, through a unique twist on a 4A economic development sales tax.

“Voters approved the stadium, which is actually a 4B purpose,” says Skip Noe, Corpus Christi’s city manager. “That is allowable if the voters specify that it’s OK to use the 4A funds for it.”

The city owns the stadium, which is leased by the Hooks and is changing the face of the traditional shipping and warehousing district.

“The area around the site had several warehouses that dated way back, and was in need of renovation,” Noe says. “I think we’re beginning to see the stadium create some tangible spin-off development in the area.”

It’s where Texas communities gather on starlit summer nights, and it draws baseball-loving tourists to town.

Seventeen minor-league franchises call Texas home, and the communities where they are located embrace them, making them their own.

“There was an active effort to get the Round Rock Express here,” says Charley Ayres, interim president and CEO of the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce.

Anchored by Texan and baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan’s ownership group, the Express moved to Round Rock from Jackson, Mississippi, in 2000.

“The city of Round Rock supported them through a public-private partnership with the Ryan group, and the public voted to get them here,” Ayres says.

The 120,000-resident Round Rock area grows by 7,000-10,000 people on game nights. About one-third of those fans come from outside of the immediate area, eating in restaurants and often staying overnight.

The Dell Diamond, Home of the Round Rock Express. Photo: Round Rock Express.

“Game days always provide us an increase in traffic and sales,” says Dwayne Kostiha, vice president of Austaco Ltd., which owns several restaurants on the road to the Dell Diamond, the Express’ home stadium. “The Dell Diamond promotes tourism and commerce and is a destination point for local and regional traffic.”

The team’s presence has played a part in the community’s growth.

“When the Express started construction, there were four hotels in Round Rock,” says Ayres. “Now there are 24 and around 2,300 beds.”

Part of Corpus Christi’s port area underwent a facelift with the 2005 arrival of the Hooks, a member of the Texas League. The city and its residents voted to approve construction of the Hooks’ city-owned home stadium, Whataburger Field. The stadium seats 7,500 fans near the southern edge of Corpus Christi’s ship channel. The ballpark takes the area in a new direction, says Roland Mower, CEO of the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corp.

“I think this may ultimately lead to development of more retail and restaurant space or even office space down there,” Mower says.

Not every Texas city is interested in landing a professional sports franchise, but when it comes to promoting tourism, city leaders can work together.

“The key word is partnership,” Ayres says. “To realize success, a community must realize there cannot be personal agendas. It starts in the boardroom and they have to throw pride out the window and work together.” TR

For more information on the 4A and 4B economic development sales taxes and their uses, visit the Comptroller’s Local Government Assistance and Economic Development Division at www.TexasAhead.org.

Minor League Baseball in Texas

There are two types of minor league baseball in Texas: affiliated and independent. Affiliated teams’ players are the property of a major league franchise. Independent leagues and teams are not associated with major league organizations.

Corpus Christi Hooks
Corpus Christi Hooks

Texas League
Established 2005
Whataburger Field (seats 7,500)
Midland Rockhounds
Midland Rockhounds

Texas League
Established 1972
Citibank Ballpark
San Antonio Missions
San Antonio Missions

Texas League
Established 1888
Nelson Wolff Municipal Stadium (seats 6,200)
Bay Area Toros
Bay Area Toros

Continental Baseball League
Established 2007
Robinson Stadium (seats 1,800)

Frisco RoughRiders
Frisco RoughRiders

Texas League
Established 2003
Dr Pepper Ballpark (seats 8,000)
Amarillo Dillas
Amarillo Dillas

United League
Established 1994
Amarillo National Bank Dilla Villa (seats 7,500)
Fort Worth Cats
Fort Worth Cats

American Association
Established 2001
LaGrave Field (seats 5,100)
Corpus Christi Beach Dawgs
Corpus Christi Beach Dawgs

Continental Baseball League
Established 2008
Fairgrounds Field

Round Rock Express
Round Rock Express

Pacific Coast League
Established 2000
The Dell Diamond (seats 8,722)
Harlingen Whitewings
Harlingen Whitewings

United League
Established 1994
Harlingen Field (seats 4,500)
McKinney Blue Thunder
McKinney Blue Thunder

Continental Baseball League
Established 2007
The Ballfields at Craig Ranch (seats 1,200)
Grand Prairie AirHogs
Grand Prairie AirHogs

American Association
Established 2008
QuikTrip Park at Grand Prairie (seats 5,445)
Edinburg Coyotes
Edinburg Coyotes

United League
Established 2006
Edinburg Baseball Stadium
San Angelo Colts
San Angelo Colts

United League
Established 2000
Foster Field (seats 4,400)
Texarkana Gunslingers
Texarkana Gunslingers

Continental Baseball League
Established 2007
The Ballpark at Spring Lake
Laredo Broncos
Laredo Broncos

United League
Established 2000
Veterans Field

El Paso Diablos
El Paso Diablos

American Association
Established 2006
Cohen Stadium (seats 9,015)